Yom Hazikaron in Israel is a day of personal mourning, of collective grief, and of national catharsis. Our historic return to our homeland has demanded a steep toll of human heroism as we struggle to defend our people and stabilize our sovereignty.
Jews are no strangers to historical challenge and the suffering it exacts. However, Yom Hazikaron provides three very important changes in memorializing our martyrs.
First, we mourn as families and communities; but also for the first time in 2,000 years we mourn as a state. Despite all our differences, we cluster together and stand as one unified family – both in our collective sadness and in the warmth we try to extend to families who have paid this immense price for our return. Our mourning is collective and institutional rather than local and communal.
Secondly, our mourning is both bitter and sweet; we feel clouds of sadness darkening our horizons but we sense an overpowering radiance illuminating the canvas upon which these clouds are sketched. Unlike past tragedies we sense imminent and palpable results and outcomes. We witness the modern miracle of the State of Israel as our beloved country advances in almost every sector and we assume our rightful position as a leader of nations.
We sense the Bible reopened as the passages of prophecy literally flutter off the page and into our reality. The ultimate price that so many have paid has yielded an opportunity to re-build our people in its ancestral land and its renewed history. As such the transition from this day of mourning to Independence Day, Yom Haatzmaut – which to many may seem foreign – is seamless and integrated.
Finally, it is a day not only to remember the heroes who have given their lives for their history. It is also a day to celebrate all those who continue to risk life and limb on behalf of our nation, who bear uniforms with Jewish symbols and who remind us that we are now protected by our own.
The pinnacle of this experience occurs at 11:00 AM in Israel when throngs gather in local cemeteries as well as the national cemetery for soldiers at Har Herzl in Jerusalem. Flags are flown at half mast but voices are hearts raised at full throttle. Deep tears of grief mingle with deep pride.
Poems of past soldiers and civilians who yearned to witness our modern day triumph are recited; their authors smile down upon the proceedings. Sorrowful melodies waft through our assemblies uniting us in song and spirit.
We stand at silently at attention as names are recited in prayer for our heroes. We plead with the Almighty to accelerate the final steps of history and ease its passage. We huddle with families visiting the graves of their fallen soldiers and listen to their stories and join in their fervent psalms. Finally we punctuate our pride and pathos with a common anthem, Hatikvah, followed by the steadfast faith of Ani Ma'amin.
We are proud to offer this opportunity for our family across the world to join us in this great day of Jewish history.